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THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 193468

ALO. EYANA,
Petitioner,

Present:
VELASCO, JR., J.
Chairperson,
PERALTA,
VILLARAMA, JR.,
REYES, and
JARDELEZA, JJ.

- versus -

PHILIPPINE TRANSMARINE
CARRIERS, INC., ALAIN A.
GARILLOS, CELEBRITY
CRUISES, INC. (U.S.A.),
Respondents.

Promulgated:
January 28, 2015

x------------------------------------------------------~~~---------x
DECISION
REYES,J:
The instant petition for review on certiorari 1 assails the Decision2
dated March 22, 2010 and Resolution3 dated August 13, 2010 of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 108483. The CA affirmed the Decision4
of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) dated November 28,
2008, which declared that Al 0. Eyana (petitioner) is entitled to an award of
disability compensation equivalent to Grade Eight under the Philippine
Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) Standard Employment Contract
(SEC). The NLRC reversed the labor arbiter's (LA) earlier decision, 5 which
awarded to the petitioner US$80,000.00 as total and permanent disability
Rollo, pp. 10-24.
Penned by Associate Justice Ruben C. Ayson, with Associate Justices Hakim S. Abdulwahid and
Normandie B. Pizarro concurring; CA rol/o, pp. 155-171.
3
Id. at 200-201.
4
Penned by Presiding Commissioner Raul T. Aquino, with Commissioners Victoriano R. Calaycay
and Angelita A. Gacutan concurring; id. at 27-36.
5
Issued by LA Romelita N. Riotlorido; id. at l 8-25A.

Decision

G.R. No. 193468

benefits, and US$8,000.00 as attorneys fees.


Antecedents
Respondent Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc. (PTCI) is a local
manning agency, with Alain A. Garillos (Garillos) as its crewing manager
and official representative.
PTCI, for and on behalf of its foreign principal, Celebrity Cruises,
Inc. (CCI), hired the petitioner to assume the position of a utility cleaner on
board M/V Century. The petitioner then joined the ship on April 15, 2006.
His contract covered a period of eight months and his basic monthly salary
was US$267.00. His tasks were predominantly manual in nature, which
involved lifting, carrying, loading, transporting and arranging food supplies,
and floor cleaning.6
On August 2, 2006, the petitioner felt a sudden pain in his back after
lifting a 30-kilo block of cheese from the freezer shelf. He was no longer
able to carry the cheese to the kitchen. He reported the incident to his
superior.7
The petitioner was confined in a hospital in Oslo, Norway from
August 4 to 16, 2006. He was medically repatriated to the Philippines on
August 17, 2006.8
PTCI immediately referred the petitioner to Dr. Natalio G. Alegre II
(Dr. Alegre) for treatment. The initial consultation was on August 18, 2006.
Dr. Alegre noted that the petitioner was (a) suffering from severe low back
pains, (b) experiencing numbness and weakness in his right lower leg, and
(c) having difficulty bending and sitting. The former was, thus, advised to
undergo physical therapy thrice a week.9
The petitioner thereafter consulted Dr. Alegre eight more times from
August 28, 2006 up to January 26, 2007. He continued with physical
therapy and was prescribed medications.10
On October 23, 2006, Dr. Alegre reported that the Magnetic
Resonance Imaging scan of the petitioners lumbosacral spine showed disk
desiccation L4L5 and L5S1 with left posterolateral disk herniations and
6
7
8
9
10

Id. at 156-157; rollo, p. 13.


CA rollo, p. 157.
Id. at 18-19.
Rollo, p. 96.
Id. at 97-104.

Decision

G.R. No. 193468

nerve root compression. Since the petitioner was hesitant to undergo


surgery, Dr. Alegre recommended the administration of epidural steroid
injection to decrease the pain and swelling, and the continuation of physical
therapy.11
On January 20, 2007, Dr. Alegre informed PTCI that the petitioner
still suffered from persistent back pains and restricted truncal mobility.
Since the petitioner was still young, conservative management with
physical therapy was recommended. The petitioner was then given a
Disability Grade of 8 (Chest-Trunk-Spine # 5, moderate rigidity or 2/3 loss
of motion or lifting power of the trunk).12
The petitioners last consultation with Dr. Alegre was on January 26,
2007. The former manifested his preference for the continuation of physical
therapy and once again refused the offer of surgical intervention.13
On June 6, 2007, the petitioner sought the opinion of Dr. Venancio P.
Garduce, Jr. (Dr. Garduce), an orthopedic surgeon. The medical certificate
signed by the latter indicated that the petitioner had (a) nerve root
compression at L4-L5 and L5-S1; (b) numbness and sensory deficits of 40%
with weakness of the left big toe extension; and (c) limited range of motion
of the back. Dr. Garduce concluded that the petitioner had a Disability
Grade of One and was thus unfit for sea duty.14
On June 7, 2007, the petitioner filed before the NLRC a complaint15
for disability benefits, medical reimbursements, damages and attorneys fees
against PTCI, Garillos and CCI (respondents).
Ruling of the LA
On December 17, 2007, the LA rendered a Decision16 awarding to the
petitioner the amounts of US$80,000.00 as total and permanent disability
benefits, and US$8,000.00 as attorneys fees. The LA ruled that the
provisions of the FIT-CISL-ITF CBA (CBA) which adopted Article 12 of the
ITF Cruise Ship Model Agreement covering the petitioners vessel of
employment were applicable.17 The said article, in part, provides that:

11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Id. at 102.
Id. at 105.
Id. at 104.
Id. at 106.
CA rollo, pp. 17, 158.
Id. at 18-25A.
Id. at 21.

Decision

G.R. No. 193468

Regardless of the degree of disability[,] an injury or illness which results


in loss of profession will entitle the Seafarer to the full amount of
compensation, USD eighty thousand (80,000) for ratings, (Groups B, C, &
D) x x x. For the purposes of this Article, loss of profession means when
the physical condition of the Seafarer prevents a return to sea service,
under applicable national and international standards or when it is
otherwise clear that the Seafarers condition will adversely prevent the
Seafarers future of comparable employment on board ships.18

The LA found Dr. Garduces opinion as credible. The LA likewise


declared that even if the Disability Grade of Eight assessed by Dr. Alegre
would be considered instead, it cannot alter the fact that the petitioners
medical condition was permanent thereby resulting in the loss of his
profession as a seaman. Further, the petitioner was unable to perform his
customary job for more than 120 days, hence, under the law, he should be
considered as permanently and totally disabled.19
Ruling of the NLRC
The respondents assailed the LA decision before the NLRC. The
dispositive portion of the NLRC Decision20 dated November 28, 2008 reads
as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision under review is
hereby, REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and another entered, DISMISSING
the cause of action for payment of higher disability benefits.
According[ly], [the petitioner] is declared entitled to an award of
disability compensation equivalent to GRADE EIGHT (8) under the
[POEA-SEC].
SO ORDERED.21

The NLRC explained that:


Records show that [Dr. Alegre] personally examined the
[petitioner] starting August 18, 2006. From said date until January 26,
2007, [the petitioner] underwent medical examination for no less than
eight (8) times x x x. Notably, on two occasions, Dr. Alegre suggested that
[the petitioner] undergo operation. [The petitioner] himself refused but
instead opted for epidural steroid injection and physical therapy x x x.
Having failed to receive a higher disability rating, [the petitioner] waited
[for] over four (4) months before he sought a second opinion which was
based on a mere single consultation that, in turn, produced a mere
handwritten diagnosis. From these established facts, even granting that
18
19
20
21

Id. at 22.
Id. at 22-23.
Id. at 27-36.
Id. at 35.

Decision

G.R. No. 193468

the disability assessment should have been as what [the petitioners]


private physician had determined, his conduct is considered as a
supervening cause that could account for such disability, noting further
that the second medical opinion was obtained several months after the
company-designated physician had issued a disability rating. These
circumstances warrant according to the medical opinion of [the
petitioners] private physician with such nil significance.
Attendant facts not only render an inherent weakness in [the
petitioners] evidence. They fail to overcome the corresponding probative
weight and credence being ascribed to the declaration of the
company-designated physician which had been issued pursuant to the
conditions stated in the [POEA SEC]. Thusly, and as ruled in the case of
Cadornigara v. Amethyst Shipping Co., Inc., et al., G.R. No. 158073,
November 23, 2007, while the certification of the company physician may
be contested, the seafarer must indicate facts or evidence on record to
contradict such finding. x x x [The petitioner] having entirely missed
pointing to any circumstance that would have reasonably established fraud
or misrepresentation on the part of the company-designated physician, We
are therefore without any other recourse but to render due adherence to his
findings and conclusions.22

On February 13, 2009, the NLRC denied the respondents motion for
reconsideration.23
Ruling of the CA
The respondents thereafter filed a Petition for Certiorari,24 which the
CA dismissed through the herein assailed decision and resolution. The CA
declared that:
The Court notes that Section 20(B) of the employment contract
states that it is the company-designated physician who determines a
seafarers fitness to work or his degree of disability. Nonetheless, a
claimant may dispute the company-designated physicians report by
seasonably consulting another doctor. In such a case, the medical report
issued by the latter shall be evaluated by the labor tribunal and the court,
based on its inherent merit.
It is noted that petitioner took four (4) months before disputing the
finding of Dr. Alegre by consulting a second opinion of his physician of
choice, whose only consultation with him is recorded by a handwritten
diagnosis dated June 6, 2007, a day before he filed a complaint for
disability benefits. x x x.
xxxx

22
23
24

Id. at 33-35.
Id. at 37-39.
Id. at 2-14.

Decision

G.R. No. 193468

As the Supreme Court observed in Sarocam v. Interorient Maritime


Ent. Inc., it makes no sense to compare the certification of a
company-designated physician with that of an employee-appointed
physician if the former is dated seven to eight months earlier than the
latter -- there would be no basis for comparison at all.
In Maunlad Transport, Inc. vs. Manigo, where the Supreme Court
took note of the doctrines laid down in Cadornigara v. NLRC and
Sarocam v. Interorient Maritime Ent., Inc., which We hold to be the
more applicable rule in the instant case, wherein the Court held that an
assessment of a private doctor consulted by the claimant six (6) months
after he was declared fit to work by the company-designated physician
in Cadornigara and seven (7) to eight (8) months in Sarocam, has no
evidentiary value, for the claimants health condition may have drastically
changed in the interregnum.
Following the foregoing analyses in Cadornigara and Sarocam,
the necessary conclusion in this case would have to be that Dr. Alegres
(the company physician) diagnosis and recommendation has more
evidentiary weight and should therefore prevail over that of Dr. Garduce.
In the absence of bad faith, Dr. Alegres findings were binding on the
petitioner, such findings being based on the petitioners extensive and
actual medical history and treatment.
Moreover, the records lack competent showing of the extent of the
medical treatment that the private doctor gave to the petitioner. In
contrast, Dr. Alegres extensive medical treatment that enabled him to
make a final diagnosis on the degree of the petitioners disability was
amply demonstrated. Thus, between the certification issued by the
company[-]designated physician and the certification issued by the private
doctor, We would lend more credence to the certification issued by the
company[-]designated physician because it was done in the regular
performance of his duties as company physician and who consistently
examined complainants health condition. We cannot simply brush aside
said certification in the absence of solid proof that it was issued with grave
abuse of authority of the company physician. This was what respondent
NLRC precisely considered in coming out with its reversal decision. In
doing so, it may not be said that it gravely abused its discretion.
While the Court may agree with the petitioner that the [POEA
SEC] for Seamen is designed primarily for the protection and benefit of
Filipino seamen in the pursuit of the employment on board ocean-going
vessels and its provisions must, therefore be construed and applied fairly,
reasonably and liberally in their favor, We must also emphasize that the
constitutional policy to provide full protection to labor is not meant to be a
sword to oppress employers, nor a means to prevent the court from
sustaining the employer when it is in the right.25 (Citations omitted)

25

Id. at 166-170.

Decision

G.R. No. 193468

Issues
This Court is now called upon to resolve the issues of whether or not
the CA and the NLRC erred in not considering the following:
(a) provisions of the CBA which provide full compensation for loss of
profession regardless of the degree of disability;26 and
(b) settled jurisprudence on seafarers claims declaring that
entitlement to full disability compensation is based on the loss of earning
capacity and not on medical significance.27
The petitioner claims that while the respondents never controverted
the existence of the CBA, which was an addendum to the POEA SEC
executed between the parties in this case, the NLRC and the CA failed to
discuss the provisions therein in their respective decisions. Further, Article
12 of the CBA provides that regardless of the disability grading given to the
petitioner, he should be entitled to a compensation of US$80,000.00 as a
result of the loss of his profession. The petitioner also points out that from
his repatriation on August 18, 2006 up to the time the instant petition was
filed in 2009, he had remained unfit to work as a seaman after losing
two-thirds of his trunks lifting power. Anent the petitioners alleged refusal
to undergo surgery, he asserts that he was not solely at fault as Dr. Alegre
himself had adopted the orthopedic recommendation of conservative
management with physical therapy.28
The petitioner also reiterates that permanent and total disability does
not mean absolute helplessness, but mere inability to do substantially all
material acts necessary for the pursuit of any occupation for remuneration in
substantially customary and usual manner. Because of his back injury
resulting from the accident, he is rendered permanently unfit for sea
service.29
In their Comment,30 the respondents argue that Department Order No.
4 and Memorandum Circular No. 9, series of 2000, otherwise known as the
POEA Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Employment of
Filipino Seafarers On Board Ocean-Going Vessels, shall apply since the
employment contract executed between the parties expressly stipulated so.
Under Section 32 of the POEA SEC, Grade 8 disability entitles the seafarer
to a compensation equivalent to US$16,795.00 or 33.59% of
26
27
28
29
30

Rollo, p. 15.
Id. at 20.
Id. at 16-19.
Id. at 20-21.
Id. at 84-94.

Decision

G.R. No. 193468

US$50,000.00.31
Further, the petitioner belatedly sought the opinion of Dr. Garduce
four months after Dr. Alegre had made a disability assessment. The
petitioner did so as a mere afterthought.32 Besides, while the findings of Dr.
Alegre may be contested, the petitioner should have indicated facts or
evidence in the records to refute the same. The petitioner failed in this
respect. Thus, Dr. Garduces medical opinion, which was arrived at after a
days observation, cannot override the careful assessment of Dr. Alegre, who
had monitored the petitioners condition in a span of six months.33
Ruling of the Court
The instant petition is partially meritorious.
There is no dispute that the petitioners injury was work-related and
that he is entitled to disability compensation. The questions now posed
before this Court essentially relate to what are the applicable provisions to
determine the (a) petitioners degree of disability, and (b) amount of
compensation he is entitled to.
The CBAs existence and the
applicability of its provisions to the
instant petition have not been
established.
It has been oft-repeated that a party alleging a critical fact must
support his allegation with substantial evidence, and any decision based on
unsubstantiated allegation cannot stand as it will offend due process.34
In the case at bar, while the petitioner based his claims for full
disability benefits upon the CBA, he presented no more than two
unauthenticated pages of the same.35 Hence, the CBA deserves no
evidentiary weight and cannot be made as the basis for the award of
disability compensation. Consequently, the first issue36 raised herein is
rendered moot, leaving the Court to resolve the petition in the light of the
provisions of the POEA SEC and relevant labor laws.

31

Id. at 85-86.
Id. at 86, 90.
33
Id. at 90.
34
Please see Oriental Shipmanagement Co., Inc. v. Nazal, G.R. No. 177103, June 3, 2013, 697
SCRA 51, 61, citing UST Faculty Union v. University of Sto. Tomas, et al., 602 Phil. 1016, 1025 (2009).
35
CA rollo, pp. 56-57.
36
Rollo, p. 15.
32

Decision

G.R. No. 193468

The POEA SEC governs. Under


Section 32 thereof, the petitioner is
entitled to a total and permanent
disability
compensation
of
US$60,000.00.
In Kestrel Shipping Co., Inc. v. Munar,37 likewise involving a seafarer
who had sustained a spinal injury and had lost two-thirds of his trunks
lifting power, the Court is emphatic that:
Indeed, under Section 32 of the POEA-SEC, only those injuries or
disabilities that are classified as Grade 1 may be considered as total and
permanent. However, if those injuries or disabilities with a disability
grading from 2 to 14, hence, partial and permanent, would incapacitate a
seafarer from performing his usual sea duties for a period of more than
120 or 240 days, depending on the need for further medical treatment, then
he is, under legal contemplation, totally and permanently disabled. x x x.
Moreover, the company-designated physician is expected to arrive
at a definite assessment of the seafarers fitness to work or permanent
disability within the period of 120 or 240 days. That should he fail to do
so and the seafarers medical condition remains unresolved, the seafarer
shall be deemed totally and permanently disabled.
xxxx
x x x Section 29 of the 1996 POEA SEC itself
provides that [a]ll rights and obligations of the parties to
[the] Contract, including the annexes thereof, shall be
governed by the laws of the Republic of the Philippines,
international conventions, treaties and covenants where the
Philippines is a signatory. Even without this provision, a
contract of labor is so impressed with public interest that
the New Civil Code expressly subjects it to the special
laws on labor unions, collective bargaining, strikes and
lockouts, closed shop, wages, working conditions, hours of
labor and similar subjects.
Thus, the Court has applied the Labor Code concept
of permanent total disability to the case of seafarers. x x x.
In Vergara v. Hammonia Maritime Services, Inc., this Court read
the POEA-SEC in harmony with the Labor Code and the [Amended Rules
on Employee Compensation] in interpreting in holding that: (a) the 120
days provided under Section 20-B(3) of the POEA-SEC is the period
given to the employer to determine fitness to work and when the seafarer
is deemed to be in a state of total and temporary disability; (b) the 120
days of total and temporary disability may be extended up to a maximum
of 240 days should the seafarer require further medical treatment; and (c) a
total and temporary disability becomes permanent when so declared by the
company-designated physician within 120 or 240 days, as the case may
37

G.R. No. 198501, January 30, 2013, 689 SCRA 795.

Decision

10

G.R. No. 193468

be, or upon the expiration of the said periods without a declaration of


either fitness to work or permanent disability and the seafarer is still
unable to resume his regular seafaring duties. Quoted below are the
relevant portions of this Courts Decision dated October 6, 2008:
x x x [T]he POEA [SEC] provides its own system
of disability compensation that approximates (and even
exceeds) the benefits provided under Philippine law. The
standard terms agreed upon, as above pointed out, are
intended to be read and understood in accordance with
Philippine laws, particularly, Articles 191 to 193 of the
Labor Code and the applicable implementing rules and
regulations in case of any dispute, claim or grievance.
xxxx
As these provisions operate, the seafarer, upon
sign-off from his vessel, must report to the
company-designated physician within three (3) days from
arrival for diagnosis and treatment. For the duration of the
treatment but in no case to exceed 120 days, the seaman is
on temporary total disability as he is totally unable to work.
He receives his basic wage during this period until he is
declared fit to work or his temporary disability is
acknowledged by the company to be permanent, either
partially or totally, as his condition is defined under the
POEA [SEC] and by applicable Philippine laws. If the 120
days initial period is exceeded and no such declaration is
made because the seafarer requires further medical
attention, then the temporary total disability period may be
extended up to a maximum of 240 days, subject to the right
of the employer to declare within this period that a
permanent partial or total disability already exists. The
seaman may of course also be declared fit to work at any
time such declaration is justified by his medical condition.
xxxx
As we outlined above, a temporary total disability
only becomes permanent when so declared by the company
physician within the periods he is allowed to do so, or upon
the expiration of the maximum 240-day medical treatment
period without a declaration of either fitness to work or the
existence of a permanent disability. In the present case,
while the initial 120-day treatment or temporary total
disability period was exceeded, the company-designated
doctor duly made a declaration well within the extended
240-day period that the petitioner was fit to work. Viewed
from this perspective, both the NLRC and CA were legally
correct when they refused to recognize any disability
because the petitioner had already been declared fit to
resume his duties. In the absence of any disability after his
temporary total disability was addressed, any further
discussion of permanent partial and total disability, their
existence, distinctions and consequences, becomes a
surplusage that serves no useful purpose.

Decision

11

G.R. No. 193468

Consequently, if after the lapse of the stated periods, the


seafarer is still incapacitated to perform his usual sea duties and the
company-designated physician had not yet declared him fit to work or
permanently disabled, whether total or permanent, the conclusive
presumption that the latter is totally and permanently disabled arises. On
the other hand, if the company-designated physician declares the seaman
fit to work within the said periods, such declaration should be respected
unless the physician chosen by the seaman and the doctor selected by both
the seaman and his employer declare otherwise. As provided under
Section 20-B(3) of the POEA-SEC, a seafarer may consult another
doctor and in case the latters findings differ from those of the
company-designated physician, the opinion of a third doctor chosen by
both parties may be secured and such shall be final and binding. The same
procedure should be observed in case a seafarer, believing that he is totally
and permanently disabled, disagrees with the declaration of the
company-designated physician that he is partially and permanently
disabled.
In Vergara, as between the determinations made by the
company-designated physician and the doctor appointed by the seaman,
the former should prevail absent any indication that the above procedure
was complied with:
The POEA [SEC] and the CBA clearly provide that
when a seafarer sustains a work-related illness or injury
while on board the vessel, his fitness or unfitness for work
shall be determined by the company-designated physician.
If the physician appointed by the seafarer disagrees with
the company-designated physicians assessment, the
opinion of a third doctor may be agreed jointly between the
employer and the seafarer to be the decision final and
binding on them.
Thus, while petitioner had the right to seek a second
and even a third opinion, the final determination of whose
decision must prevail must be done in accordance with an
agreed procedure. Unfortunately, the petitioner did not
avail of this procedure; hence, we have no option but to
declare that the company-designated doctors certification
is the final determination that must prevail. x x x.
In this case, the following are undisputed: (a) when Munar filed a
complaint for total and permanent disability benefits on April 17, 2007,
181 days had lapsed from the time he signed-off from M/V Southern
Unity on October 18, 2006; (b) Dr. Chua issued a disability grading on
May 3, 2007 or after the lapse of 197 days; and (c) Munar secured the
opinion of Dr. Chiu on May 21, 2007; (d) no third doctor was consulted by
the parties; and (e) Munar did not question the competence and skill of the
company-designated physicians and their familiarity with his medical
condition.
It may be argued that these provide sufficient grounds for the
dismissal of Munars complaint. Considering that the 240-day period had
not yet lapsed when the NLRC was asked to intervene, Munars complaint
is premature and no cause of action for total and permanent disability

Decision

12

G.R. No. 193468

benefits had set in. While beyond the 120-day period, Dr. Chuas medical
report dated May 3, 2007 was issued within the 240-day period.
Moreover, Munar did not contest Dr. Chuas findings using the procedure
outlined under Section 20-B(3) of the POEA-SEC. For being Munars
attending physicians from the time he was repatriated and given their
specialization in spine injuries, the findings of Dr. Periquet and Dr. Lim
constitute sufficient bases for Dr. Chuas disability grading. As Munar did
not allege, much less, prove the contrary, there exists no reason why Dr.
Chius assessment should be preferred over that of Dr. Chua.
It must be noted, however, that when Munar filed his complaint,
Dr. Chua had not yet determined the nature and extent of Munars
disability. Also, Munar was still undergoing physical therapy and his
spine injury had yet been fully addressed. Furthermore, when Munar filed
a claim for total and permanent disability benefits, more than 120 days had
gone by and the prevailing rule then was that enunciated by this Court in
Crystal Shipping, Inc. v. Natividad that total and permanent disability
refers to the seafarers incapacity to perform his customary sea duties for
more than 120 days. Particularly:
Permanent disability is the inability of a worker
to perform his job for more than 120 days, regardless of
whether or not he loses the use of any part of his body.
As gleaned from the records, respondent was unable to
work from August 18, 1998 to February 22, 1999, at the
least, or more than 120 days, due to his medical treatment.
This clearly shows that his disability was permanent.
Total disability, on the other hand, means the
disablement of an employee to earn wages in the same kind
of work of similar nature that he was trained for, or
accustomed to perform, or any kind of work which a person
of his mentality and attainments could do. It does not mean
absolute helplessness. In disability compensation, it is not
the injury which is compensated, but rather it is the
incapacity to work resulting in the impairment of ones
earning capacity.
xxxx
Petitioners tried to contest the above findings by
showing that respondent was able to work again as a chief
mate in March 2001. Nonetheless, this information does
not alter the fact that as a result of his illness, respondent
was unable to work as a chief mate for almost three years.
It is of no consequence that respondent was cured after
a couple of years. The law does not require that the
illness should be incurable. What is important is that
he was unable to perform his customary work for more
than 120 days which constitutes permanent total
disability. An award of a total and permanent disability
benefit would be germane to the purpose of the benefit,
which is to help the employee in making ends meet at the
time when he is unable to work.

Decision

13

G.R. No. 193468

Consequently, that after the expiration of the 120-day period, Dr.


Chua had not yet made any declaration as to Munars fitness to work and
Munar had not yet fully recovered and was still incapacitated to work
sufficed to entitle the latter to total and permanent disability benefits.
In addition, that it was by operation of law that brought forth the
conclusive presumption that Munar is totally and permanently disabled,
there is no legal compulsion for him to observe the procedure prescribed
under Section 20-B(3) of the POEA-SEC. A seafarers compliance with
such procedure presupposes that the company-designated physician came
up with an assessment as to his fitness or unfitness to work before the
expiration of the 120-day or 240-day periods. Alternatively put, absent a
certification from the company-designated physician, the seafarer had
nothing to contest and the law steps in to conclusively characterize his
disability as total and permanent.
This Courts pronouncements in Vergara presented a restraint
against the indiscriminate reliance on Crystal Shipping such that a seafarer
is immediately catapulted into filing a complaint for total and permanent
disability benefits after the expiration of 120 days from the time he signed
off from the vessel to which he was assigned. Particularly, a seafarers
inability to work and the failure of the company-designated physician to
determine fitness or unfitness to work despite the lapse of 120 days will
not automatically bring about a shift in the seafarers state from total and
temporary to total and permanent, considering that the condition of total
and temporary disability may be extended up to a maximum of 240 days.
Nonetheless, Vergara was promulgated on October 6, 2008, or
more than two (2) years from the time Munar filed his complaint and
observance of the principle of prospectivity dictates that Vergara should
not operate to strip Munar of his cause of action for total and permanent
disability that had already accrued as a result of his continued inability to
perform his customary work and the failure of the company-designated
physician to issue a final assessment.38 (Citations omitted, emphases in the
original and underscoring ours)

Similar to the circumstances obtained in Kestrel, the petitioner failed


to assail the competence of the company-designated physicians, and seek the
opinion of a third doctor mutually agreed upon by the parties. In Kestrel and
the instant petition too, the disability assessment was made by the
company-designated doctors after the lapse of 120 days from the seafarers
repatriation. Likewise, in both cases, the complaints were filed by the
seafarers before October 6, 2008, the date of the promulgation of Vergara v.
Hammonia Maritime Services, Inc., et al.39
Applying the doctrines enunciated in Kestrel, the Court finds that the
petitioner is entitled to total and permanent disability benefits under the
provisions of the POEA SEC. It bears stressing that the Court need not even
delve into the merits of the assessments made by Dr. Alegre, on one hand,
38
39

Id. at 809-818.
588 Phil. 895 (2008).

Decision

14

G.R. No. 193468

and Dr. Garduce, on the other. This proceeds from an unalterable fact that
Dr. Alegre had made the disability assessment on January 20, 2007, or over
five months from the petitioners repatriation on August 17, 2006.
Consequently, the rule on the 120-day period, during which the disability
assessment should have been made in accordance with Crystal Shipping,
Inc. v. Natividad,40 the doctrine then prevailing before the promulgation of
Vergara on October 6, 2008, stands. Hence, due to the failure of Dr. Alegre
to issue a disability rating within the prescribed period, a conclusive
presumption that the petitioner is totally and permanently disabled arose. As
a result thereof, the petitioner is not legally compelled to observe the
procedure laid down in Section 20-B(3) of the POEA SEC relative to the
resort to a third doctor.
As discussed earlier, the Court need not delve into the merits of the
disability assessments made by Dr. Alegre and Dr. Garduce. However, it is
worth noting that on January 20, 2007, Dr. Alegre informed PTCI that the
petitioner was still suffering from persistent back pains. Thus, the
Gabapentin dose prescribed to the petitioner was increased to 600
milligrams per day and physical therapy was continued.41
Gabapentin tablets are used to treat long lasting pain caused by
damage to the nerves. A variety of different diseases can cause peripheral
(primarily occurring in the legs and/or arms) neuropathic pain, such as
diabetes or shingles. Pain sensations may be described as hot, burning,
throbbing, shooting, stabbing, sharp, cramping, aching, tingling, numbness,
pins and needles, etc.42
In Seagull Maritime Corporation v. Dee,43 the Court declared that:
Permanent total disability means disablement of an employee to earn
wages in the same kind of work or work of a similar nature that he was
trained for or accustomed to perform, or any kind of work which a person
of his mentality and attainment can do. It does not mean state of absolute
helplessness but inability to do substantially all material acts necessary to
the prosecution of a gainful occupation without serious discomfort or pain
and without material injury or danger to life. In disability compensation, it
is not the injury per se which is compensated but the incapacity to work.
Although private respondents injury was undeniably confined to
his left foot only, we cannot close our eyes, as petitioners would like us to,
to the inescapable impact of private respondents injury on his capacity to
work as a seaman. In their desire to escape liability from private
respondents rightful claim, petitioners denigrated the fact that even if
private respondent insists on continuing to work as a seaman, no profit

40
41
42
43

510 Phil. 332 (2005).


Rollo, p. 105.
<http://www.drugs.com/uk/pdf/leaflet/359984.pdf> (visited January 22, 2015).
548 Phil. 660 (2007).

Decision

15

G.R. No. 193468

minded employer will hire him. His injury erased all these possibilities.44
(Citation omitted, italics in the original and underscoring ours)

Further, Wallem Maritime Services, Inc. v. Tanawan45 unequivocally


reiterated that:
What clearly determines the seafarers entitlement to permanent disability
benefits is his inability to work for more than 120 days. Although the
company-designated physician already declared the seafarer fit to work,
the seafarers disability is still considered permanent and total if such
declaration is made belatedly (that is, more than 120 days after
repatriation).46 (Citations omitted)

In the instant petition, Dr. Alegres January 20, 2007 report47


addressed to PTCI clearly indicated that the petitioners persistent back
pains remained unresolved. Hence, the continuation of physical therapy and
an increased Gabapentin dose were recommended. The Court cannot
disregard the fact that the petitioner was a utility cleaner before he was
injured. His tasks in the ship were predominantly manual in nature
involving a lot of moving, lifting and bending. At the time Dr. Alegre
belatedly issued the disability assessment, the petitioner could not revert
back to his customary gainful occupation without subjecting himself to
serious discomfort and pain.
Further, the Court disagrees with the NLRC which found fault on the
part of the petitioner in refusing to undergo surgery as recommended
by Dr. Alegre. Records show that the petitioner underwent physical therapy.
At the time Dr. Alegre made the disability assessment on January 20, 2007,
he still presented physical therapy as an option. Again, the Court quotes:
As [the petitioner] is still young, conservative management with
physical therapy has been recommended by Orthopedics.48

The petitioner cannot thus be faulted that he opted for physical


therapy instead of surgery. If indeed surgery was the only way for the
petitioner to be able to fully recover from his injury, he should have been
categorically informed of such fact and warned of the consequences of his
choice. The petitioner did not refuse treatment. He just availed of an option
presented to him. Besides, even if he underwent surgery, there is likewise no
assurance of full recovery.

44
45
46
47
48

Id. at 671.
G.R. No. 160444, August 29, 2012, 679 SCRA 255.
Id. at 268.
Rollo, p. 105.
Id.

Decision

16

G.R. No. 193468

The Court also notes that nowhere is it shown in the records that the
petitioner was re-employed as a utility cleaner by PTCI or by any other
manning agency from the time of his repatriation on August 17, 2006 until
the filing of the instant petition in 2009. This, to the Court, is an eloquent
proof of his permanent disability.49
In sum, the Court finds the petitioner entitled to total and permanent
disability compensation. As to the amount, the Schedule of Disability
Allowances found in Section 32 of the POEA SEC is applicable. Under the
said section, a seafarer given a Grade 1 Disability assessment is entitled to
US$60,000.00 (US$50,000.00 x 120%).
The petitioner
attorneys fees.

is

entitled

to

The petitioner is entitled to attorneys fees pursuant to Article


2208(8)50 of the Civil Code.51 The Court, however, notes that the
respondents provided the petitioner with medical treatment and offered to
pay him disability benefits, albeit in the reduced amount. In other words, the
acts of the respondents did not evince bad faith. The respondents did not
completely shirk from their duties to the petitioner. Although the petitioner
was still thus compelled to litigate to be entitled to total and permanent
disability compensation, the Court finds the award of attorneys fees in the
amount of US$1,000.00 as reasonable.52
Respondent
Garillos
is
not
personally liable for the monetary
awards granted to the petitioner.
As a general rule, the officers and members of a corporation are not
personally liable for acts done in the performance of their duties.53

49

Maersk Filipinas Crewing, Inc./Maersk Services Ltd. v. Mesina, G.R. No. 200837, June 5, 2013,
697 SCRA 601, 608.
50
Art. 2208. In the absence of stipulation, attorneys fees and expenses of litigation, other than
judicial costs, cannot be recovered, except:
xxxx
(8) In actions for indemnity under workmens compensation and employers liability laws;
xxxx
51
Please see Leonis Navigation Co., Inc., et al. v. Villamater and/or The Heirs of the Late Catalino
U. Villamater, et al., 628 Phil. 81, 100 (2010).
52
Please see NFD International Manning Agents, Inc./Barber Ship Mgmt. Ltd. v. Illescas, 646 Phil.
244, 265 (2010).
53
Ever Electrical Manufacturing, Inc. (EEMI) v. Samahang Manggagawa ng Ever
Electrical/NAMAWU Local 224, G.R. No. 194795, June 13, 2012, 672 SCRA 562, 570.

17

Decision

G.R. No. 193468

"In the absence of malice, bad faith, or a specific provision of law


making a corporate officer liable, such corporate officer cannot be made
personally liable for corporate liabilities." 54
In the instant petition, there was neither an allegation nor a proof
offered to establish that Garillos, as PTCI's crewing manager and official
representative, had acted beyond the scope of his authority or with malice.
The general rule thus applies and there is no ground to hold him personally
liable for the monetary awards granted to the petitioner.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is PARTLY
GRANTED. The Decision dated March 22, 2010 and Resolution dated
August 13, 2010 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 108483 are
hereby SET ASIDE. The respondents, Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc.
and Celebrity Cruises, Inc. are hereby held jointly and severally liable to the
petitioner, AL 0. EYANA, for the amounts of (a) US$60,000.00 as total and
permanent disability allowance, and (b) US$1,000.00 as attorney's fees, at
the prevailing rate of exchange at the time of payment. An interest of six
percent (6%) per annum is likewise imposed upon the total monetary award
reckoned from the date of finality of this Decision until full satisfaction
thereof. 55
SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L;REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

PRESBITERO;.f. VELASCO, JR.


Assotlate Justice

54

Id. at 573, citing Pantranco Employees Ass 'n. (PEA-PTGWO), et al. v. NLRC, et al., 600 Phil. 645,
663 (2009).
55
Nacar v. Gallery Frames, G.R. No. 189871, August 13, 2013, 703 SCRA 439, 458.

Decision

G.R. No. 193468

18

~, JR.

~JttviLLA
.

Associate Jus ice

FRANC~ZA
Associate Justice

ATTESTATION
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Court's Division.

PRES BITE

ciate Justice
hairperson

CERTIFICATION
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the
Division Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above
Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to
the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO


Chief Justice